Why the Wizards say Bertans is an underrated transition defender


In his press conference to recap free agency, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard made a remark about Davis Bertans that spoke to the value they see in him beyond his trademark shooting. Sheppard pointed out how they see Bertans as an underrated transition defender and that he can be part of what they see as an improved defensive team moving forward.

Sheppard didn't go into details, as no one followed up with a question on the matter. But weeks later, both head coach Scott Brooks and Bertans himself explained what they think Sheppard meant.

Bertans was succinct and stopped short of soaking in the praise.

"If I’m on the three-point line, it makes sense if I’m the first one back in transition. That’s kind of, I guess, how it works out in my favor," he said.

Brooks went into further depth.

"I think his first three steps... he’s not an offensive rebounder. That’s a good thing when we get the offensive rebound, he has the ability that he sees the floor when the ball goes up in the air. So, he’s always reading where he can be," Brooks said. 

"When we do get an offensive rebound, it can be a kick-out three. Those are deadly. If you really want to piss off a coach, you make a few of those in a game. You just get so frustrated when you make them miss, they get an offensive rebound and then hit a three. So, he does a pretty good job of floating back in case he can get there. So, he’s almost one-third of the way back. And he has an awareness, he’s a smart basketball player."


Bertans is certainly a weapon on the fastbreak offensively. Last year, he ranked 22nd among qualified players in transition points (4.1/g), while carrying a 70.3 effective field goal percentage on those plays.

Defensively, his individual value on the fastbreak isn't as easy to quantify. But it's an area the Wizards were actually good at, as they placed ninth in the NBA last season in fastbreak points allowed (12.7/g). Given they had the last-ranked defense in the league, that is a noteworthy anomaly.

Bertans does his part in that effort. He gets back quickly because of the position he's in on offense and has the length and instincts to disrupt the fastbreak. Brooks seems to believe the other areas of Bertans' game, aside from his shooting, will become more prevalent, the more he plays for the Wizards moving forward. In November, Bertans signed a deal with the Wizards worth $80 million over the next five years.

"The good thing that I love about D.B. is that he’s not just a shooter. He’s an all-around player. You’re going to see even more of that this year. I love that about him," Brooks said.

"When we signed him, having him back, we knew how important he is for our team. He’s definitely more than a shooter. His transition defense is good and he knows how to play the game."